Sex columnist, speaker, and podcaster Dan Savage has been on a tear recently with his It Gets Better campaign. Here's the gist: after recent high-profile media coverage of yet more suicides by gay teenagers bullied at school, Savage encouraged older gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender people—as well as those who support them—to post videos about how much better their lives became as they grew up. In other words, he wanted to emphasize that the despair of being young and bullied for having a different sexual orientation need not last forever.
As someone who was raised and schooled as a Catholic, Savage heaps particular scorn on churches and other religious organizations (especially in the U.S.A.) for their promotion of bigotry towards homosexuals like him, both within their congregations and in the more general political and social sphere. He minces no words:
...many of your children—having listened to Mom and Dad talk about how gay marriage is a threat to family and how gay sex makes their magic sky friend Jesus cry—feel justified in physically abusing the LGBT children they encounter in their schools.
And he doesn't go easy on more liberal Christians either:
I'm sick of tolerant, accepting Christians whispering to me that "we're not all like [anti-gay fundamentalists]." If you want to change the growing perception that "good Christian" means "anti-gay"—a perception that is leading many people to stop identifying themselves as Christian because they don't want to be lumped in with the haters—stop whispering to me and start screaming at them.
Dan articulates very well what I find frustrating (and doubtless gay people find infuriating) about the way our society talks about and deals with sexual orientation. Somehow it is still acceptable to be bigoted against LGBT people, when other bigotries (about race, class, gender) no longer are—and even to feel offended when other people call you out for it.
That acceptance has real consequences:
You don't have to explicitly "encourage [your] children to mock, hurt, or intimidate" queer kids. Your encouragement—along with your hatred and fear—is implicit. It's here, it's clear, and we're seeing the fruits of it: dead children.
Yes, LGBT issues being mainstream is a pretty new thing. For instance, despite Vancouver's progressive and liberal bent, when I was a teenager in the '80s, homosexuality was still pretty taboo. None of my high-school classmates was out, though several of them are gay. I doubt any of us imagined that same-sex marriage would be legal in Canada before our 20-year class reunion.
But social change should be rapid. Once we as a society realize that something is wrong, we shouldn't delay in correcting it. Mollifying bigots and bullies is not an excuse to slow down, especially if kids die when we do.
The reason for this is rather simple: You cannot see that someone is gay. You can tell the race, class or gender though, so it;s easily identifiable and also condemnable. But being "gay" is hard, because it could be you. You can always tell if you're black, or asian or... you get the idea, but there is no "gay mark", so it subverts the sense of self.
As such, there is not real desire to "stomp it out", it's the Ostrich system. If you stick your head in the sand (e.g. gay people aren't real), then you can ignore that you could have been gay. As such, it is much easier to make it out to being a "choice" and a choice is a personal thing, not something that is outside of the control of the person being gay. Hence why they are so gung-ho about trying to frame it as a choice instead of a natural state of being.
This makes even more sense if you look at the Kinsey scale, almost no one is on the extremes, almost everybody is to some degree or the other between. So even the "most straight" person will have had some thoughts about the same sex (e.g. "Nice smell" etc.), and probably most Gay people had a similar experience. That does not mean you "go all the way" but rather that you felt tempted and that is, I think, what scares most people.
The only way out of this is education, no law passed will make this change.... Can you see anybody be willing to invest in this?
My problem is the bullying rules should be stricter period. Not just for G/L bullies. I don't like the continued difference 'hate crime' penalties create.
Laws and rules can help (and have helped) make societal changes more "real" to more people, but I think Michael has a good point about the difference between "visible" and "invisible" minorities. There are probably parallels with discrimination against Jews, Catholics, and others (something more conservative Catholic anti-gay activists might want to keep in mind, for instance).
As more LGBT people come out and live their lives openly with the rest of us, it's harder to think of a scary, unknown "them." But of course you still have Mahmood "there are no gays in Iran" Ahmadinejad and his Western equivalents. The bizarre evidence-free arguments around legislation like Proposition 8 in California reflect, in part, a fear that might happen: if same-sex marriage becomes widespread and legal, many of the hypothetical "it will ruin families and society" predictions fail—as we've already seen in Canada. Reality will eventually win out, but will take longer in some places than others.
It is easier to change yourself than change the world
Since there's no new threads and comments I'll chime in again.
I've been to mass and Catholics do care about starvation in third world nations,Palestinians, wealth inequality, police brutality, unemployment and other social issues. The Catholic church (from my own personal experience) does more good than bad.
The church is about preserving human dignity and forgiveness.
I don't condone discrimination, but the problem isn't religion but the way humans are biologically wired, for majority to turn on the minority. If religion were abolished there would still be rampant discrimination.
Certainly any dogmatic organization or belief system, from Catholicism to Bolshevism, which thinks it has all the answers and whose fundamental font of knowledge cannot be questioned, can and probably will promote human suffering in the present, in the service of some supposedly greater or more transcendental "good" in the future. That does not mean we shouldn't still oppose such bad ideas, whatever their source.
I'm paraphrasing Sam Harris here, but whatever good works the Catholic Church does and has done over the centuries (and even setting aside stuff like the Inquisition), its proclamations and behaviours now, today declare some stark facts about its moral and ethical priorities. From the Pope on down, the Church is self-admittedly, incontrovertibly more concerned about preventing the use of condoms (for contraception or mitigation of disease) and research using embryonic stem cells (for promising and likely life-saving therapies) than it is about preventing its own priests from raping children or punishing them when they do. And that's just one set of examples.
That is not the sort of organization I can take seriously as an authority on morality. But there are hundreds of millions of people who do. In the case of the official Catholic position condemning homosexuality (and very similar positions from many Protestant and Orthodox denominations, imams throughout the Muslim world, orthodox rabbis, and many other religious figures), I think that by any rational standard of human happiness, contentment, and fulfillment, that position is wrong. Furthermore, it would still be wrong even if some other church teachings happened to be right. And it harms gay people, particularly young ones, for the reasons I quoted Dan Savage about above.
What particularly bothers me is that people can say that homosexuality is wrong (as they are entitled to believe), and then deny that there's any connection between their statements and gay kids' feeling that there must be something wrong with themselves, or that those who bully and berate kids for being "fags" can draw some justification and implied support from those statements. Then taking offence when loudmouth writers like Savage make the connection explicit? Sorry to offend again, but Jesus Christ, that takes some balls.
My daughters were in high school in Buffalo, NY in the 80's and they had openly gay classmates who attended the prom with same sex dates, and everyone was very matter of fact about this. It was just accepted. They were in an honors HS, so maybe that made a difference.
"I'm sick of tolerant, accepting Christians whispering to me that "we're not all like [anti-gay fundamentalists]." If you want to change the growing perception that "good Christian" means "anti-gay"—a perception that is leading many people to stop identifying themselves as Christian because they don't want to be lumped in with the haters—stop whispering to me and start screaming at them."
What about the mainline protestant churches which have openly gay pastors serving - this includes my denomination. I wouldn't call this whispering!
And that's good! So is openly gay Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire joining the It Gets Better campaign. My guess is Dan's request would be, "More like that, please."
Richard Bott, a minister at a United church here in Metro Vancouver, wrote this to Dan Savage over the weekend:
Over at his own blog, Bott relates his own horrifying experiences with anti-gay abuse (verbal and all too physical) during school—from bullies who, for whatever reason, simply suspected he was gay.
Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong has released a strongly-worded manifesto supporting gay rights: "I will no longer listen to that pious sentimentality that certain Christian leaders continue to employ," he writes, "which suggests some version of that strange and overtly dishonest phrase that 'we love the sinner but hate the sin.' That statement is, I have concluded, nothing more than a self-serving lie..."
"Self serving lie"
I absolutely disagree with this statement. People do wrong things, make mistakes, but we still love them. My brother used to be a drug addict, I disapproved and "hated" what he did, but I still loved him with all my heart. The Bible clearly states that homosexuality is immoral behavior. It's a sin like anything else explicitly stated throughout the bible, such lying, adultery, stealing, etc.
I'm not going to debate whether homosexuality is a biological choice, or even if they can go through spiritual procedures to rewire their homosexuality. Why would God "let" someone become homosexual, or even have other "abnormalities" is beyond my understanding and something I cannot answer. But that is irrelevant, as there is still a choice in engaging or not engaging in sinful action.
The point of the matter is no one can alter the word of God to fit their own personal agenda. There is far right wing Christians, who may misinterpret biblical texture and manufacture hate (as Dan Savage described) and at the opposite end of the spectrum there is the new age reformists who manipulate the scripture and put God's true command in the backseat possibly in attempt to offend less people. I am bigoted, but I SHOULD be, because I truly believe in God and his word; love.
Indeed the Bible does proclaim homosexuality as a sin (or, more accurately, an "abomination").
Leviticus, one of the books that does so, also prohibits the eating of shellfish (as well as pork and most birds, reptiles, and molluscs), declares that those who disrespect their parents shall be put to death, advocates slavery (and provides instructions on whom to enslave), bans shaving beards and certain styles of haircuts, condemns tattoos, says women wearing blingy jewelry are bad, and prevents divorce. Also, anyone whose penis or testicles have been injured, or who is an illegitimate child or the descendant of one, may not be part of a church congregation. And that's just the one book.
Jesus himself never said anything about homosexuality one way or the other, as far as I've been able to determine.
Now, for me as an atheist, these are all equally silly and irrelevant rules. I think there are many more important things to worry about (war, environmental degradation, rape and abuse, genocide, addiction and mental health problems, treating and curing disease), and I think accepting gay people and their relationships is the right thing to do out of fairness (and love!) for our fellow humans.
You obviously disagree. But if you take the Bible seriously and condemn homosexual behaviour on that basis, yet you eat shrimp or bacon, or have ever been divorced, or have a tattoo, or permit men who've had testicular cancer surgery into your church, or you're a woman with a big collection of gold necklaces, or you allow mouthy children to survive, or you cut the hair on the side of your head, then you're being sinfully inconsistent, and it seems you're defying your God then too.
If you want to do any of those things (suggestion: go with the banning of slavery and not killing children who talk back, just as the top two), or think any of those prohibited things is actually okay, then I suggest letting gay people have the kind of sex they enjoy as well without judging them. I can't see how you can have it both ways, and I've never heard an explanation that makes any sense of how you could.
Homosexuality is also declared sinful in the new testament, such as Romans 1:26-27 and 1 Corinthians 6:9.
I don't think *I* or other Christians would (or should) be the ones judging them. Homosexuals are always welcome in our church, but when it comes to judgment day, it's God who writes the rules (and provides them in the bible) and ultimately up to him to decide.
I guess I'm having second thoughts. I've been ignorant about the old testament all this time.
I've said this before: even if I did believe in a god or gods, given what we now know about the size and age of the Universe, it seems ridiculous that a being or beings that is supposed to have created it all would care about us (and particularly our sex lives) in the tiny sliver of time we've existed on this out-of-the-way planet among hundreds of billions of stars, in a pretty but unremarkable spiral galaxy among hundreds of billions of others. We're not even specks on a mote near a dot in a smudge at those scales.
Another good one: "Has anyone noticed that there is this special little area carved out where the Bible's teachings must be enshrined in U.S. law, but only when it applies to others, i.e. gay people?" That's from Kirsten Powers.